SEOUL, South Korea — Oh boy! It seems like Samsung’s Chairman Lee Jae-yong has more lives than a cat with his recent acquittal of financial crimes related to a dicey 2015 merger. This move solidified his hold over South Korea’s most ginormous company as if it were some kind of corporate Game of Thrones.
The Seoul Central District Court, clearly feeling generous or perhaps just tired, decided to give the Samsung heir a break less than two years after he was pardoned for bribery in another scandal that made the previous government topple like dominos.
Apparently, the court didn’t believe that there was enough evidence proving the merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries was conducted illegally. I guess they missed out on all those true crime documentaries where even an inconspicuous post-it note can be damning evidence!
Unsurprisingly, this verdict had critics rolling their eyes so hard they saw their brains. They questioned how Lee could suddenly turn into Mother Teresa when he’d previously been convicted for bribing an ex-president while seeking support for said merger. A major civic group based in Seoul called People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (try saying that three times fast) described this ruling as throwing years of efforts to clean up South Korea’s corporate culture and their chummy relationshipSponsored Product with the government down the drain.
The prosecution had hoped for a five-year jail term for Lee, who was accused of stock price manipulation and accounting fraud. But it seems like they’ll have to settle for disappointment instead. As for whether they would appeal or not, no one knows yet – probably too busy picking their jaws off the floor!
Lee, in his defense, said that the 2015 merger was just “normal business activity.” And by normal he apparently means as regular as unicorns frolicking in meadows.
After leaving court without answering questions from reporters (probably because he couldn’t believe his luck either), Lee’s lawyer You Jin Kim praised the ruling saying it confirmed that there wasn’t anything fishy about this merger at all – nothing to see here folks!
Lee has been leading Samsung since 2014 when his late father former chairman Lee Kun-hee decided to take an extended nap after suffering from heart issues.
Let’s not forget how our dear friend Jae-yong spent some quality time behind bars after being convicted over separate bribery charges related to this deal back in 2017. He originally received five years imprisonment sentence but ended up serving only 18 months because clearly prison food didn’t suit his palette.
This scandal also dragged down then-President Park Geun-hye and her close confidante, which led to massive protests demanding an end to the shady relationshipSponsored Product between business and politics. But hey, who doesn’t love a good political drama?
Lee was released on parole in 2021 and pardoned by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in August 2022 – because nothing says ‘I’m sorry’ like being let off the hook for major white-collar crime!
Meanwhile, some shareholders opposed the merger back in 2015 claiming it unfairly benefited the Lee family while giving minority shareholders the short end of the stick. But I guess no one really cares about David when Goliath’s running the show!
The public wasn’t too thrilled either about how their national pension fund’s stake fell drastically after Park pressured them into supporting this deal.
Prosecutors argued that Samsung officials manipulated corporate assets causing damage to shareholders of Samsung C&T by engineering this merger favorably towards Cheil – but apparently, they failed at convincing anyone else.
And there you have it folks! Just another day in corporate Korea where money talks louder than justice and power is just another plaything for billionaires. Till next time!
Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong is acquitted of financial crimes related to 2015 merger